Damian Salas Wins 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event

  • Salas won $1m for the heads-up victory on top of the $1.55m he already claimed
  • He is the first player from Latin America to win the WSOP Main Event
  • Salas came back from two large deficits twice
  • Both players won online brackets with live final tables to reach the heads-up match
Damian Salas
Argentina’s Damian Salas defeated Joseph Hebert heads-up to win the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event Sunday, becoming the first person from Latin America to win poker’s ultimate prize. [Image: Flickr.com]

$2.55m in total winnings

Damian Salas kicked the year off with a bang, winning the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event. In addition to the $1.55m Salas won from the “International Bracket” of the Main Event, he also claimed the additional $1m for the overall championship plus the diamond-encrusted gold bracelet.

The uniqueness of the 2020 WSOP Main Event aside, Salas’s victory was historic for a number of reasons. Hailing from Argentina, he is the first player from Latin America to win the Main Event. Salas is also one of the few to make a Main Event final table more than once, previously finishing seventh in 2017.

Additionally, the heads-up match against Louisiana’s Joseph Hebert was one of the longest ever, coming in at 173 hands. The record for the WSOP Main Event belongs to John Cynn and Tony Miles, who competed for 199 hands in 2018.

it was a real fight and he never slowed down”

“Joseph was a very hard opponent, and he played really well,” Salas commented afterward. “In a few instances, he was about to win, it was a real fight and he never slowed down. Going into the championship, I felt all the energy and support from my family and friends in Argentina tonight, and that helped me.”

Massive swings

Because of the different format for the 2020 WSOP Main Event, both players began heads-up play even, with 500,000 chips each. Blinds started at 500/1,000.

As Salas said, Hebert looked close to winning long before Salas clinched the title. After the 82nd hand, Hebert had nearly 900,000 chips, leaving Salas in all-in or fold mode. And that’s what he did for about 20 hands, for the most part, as he chipped up little by little. By Hand 124, Salas still only had 300,000 out of the 1 million chips on the table, but at least it was some breathing room.

On Hand 136, however, Salas regained the lead, but he couldn’t hold onto it as Hebert grabbed it back and again created a massive gap, building his stack to 760,000 chips after hand 163. Hand 170 was the turning point. Back up to 390,000 chips, Salas shoved with A-T and Hebert called him with A-8. The board was all low, kickers determined the winner, and Salas had turned the tables. He was now in the lead with 780,000 chips.

two hands later, it was all over

Hebert doubled up on the next hand, but two hands later, it was all over. Hebert moved all-in for 390,000 with A-Q and after getting a count, Salas called with K-J. Hebert was ahead, but the flop paired Salas’s King and the river gave him another for good measure, making Damian Salas the 2020 WSOP Main Event champion.

What a long, strange trip

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions it placed on casinos and live poker, the 2020 World Series of Poker Main Event was wildly different than in previous years. It began about a month ago online, split between the “International Bracket” on GGPoker.com and the “US Bracket” on WSOP.com for players in New Jersey and Nevada. The final tables of each bracket met live at King’s Casino in Rozvadov, Czech Republic and the Rio in Las Vegas, respectively.

The winner of each table – Salas and Hebert – then squared off this past Sunday at the Rio for the bracelet and $1m in prize money on top of what they had already won in their brackets, about $1.55m each.

The heads-up match was supposed to be on Wednesday, December 30, but even though he has never tested positive for COVID-19, officials in both Dallas and Miami denied Salas’s coronavirus “certificate of exemption,” forcing him to delay his travels. As a result, the heads-up bout was moved to January 3.

Additionally, Upeshka De Silva, who was eighth in chips going into the December 28 US Bracket final table, was not permitted to participate because he tested positive for COVID-19 the day before. As a result, he automatically finished ninth and received ninth place prize money.

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